g The Film Panel Notetaker: Notes from "A Dream in Doubt" Q&A

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Notes from "A Dream in Doubt" Q&A

Rana Singh Sodhi in A Dream in Doubt
Directed by Tami Yeager, U.S., 2007; 57m
Photo Credit: Tami Yeager
I just returned home from the East Coast premiere of Tami Yeager's documentary 'A Dream in Doubt' at the Walter Reader Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City. The film, which won an honorable mention in January at the Slamdance Film Festival, was followed by an onstage conversation with Yeager and the film’s subject, Rana Singh Sodhi. The screening was part of the year-round series Independents Night, a joint program of the Film Society and IFP. This film was especially poignant to me because it put into perspective a conversation I had last summer about the Sikh religion with a friend I went to graduate school with whose family comes from the Punjab region of India. The film further enlightened and educated me, and fortified my own personal quest to end prejudice and stereotypes.
About 'A Dream in Doubt':

Sodhi and his brothers escaped persecution in India to become successful gas station owners in Mesa, Arizona . In the volatile atmosphere in the United States after 9/11, their turbans and beards, expressions of their faith as Sikhs, were mistaken as identifying symbols. Balbir, Soldhi's oldest brother, became the first victim of a 9/11 revenge killing, gunned down at his station by a man who claimed he was rooting out terrorists.

Yeager’s film details Sodhi’s attempts to educate Phoenix-area residents about hate crimes as the Sikh community nationwide continued to live as misunderstood Americans. Acting as a spokesman for his family and community and guarding his own school-aged children from the bullying and harassment they continually faced, he questions how much more tragedy his family can endure and how they could achieve the American dream when they supposedly look like the enemy.
Notes from the Onstage Conversation
with Tami Yeager and Rana Singh Sodi:

Milton Tabbot of IFP moderated the conversation and began by asking Tami how she got involved with the project.

Tami replied that she had a background studying Sikhs in America and had met up with the Preetmohan Singh, who would become the film's producer. Tami understood about the hate crimes that occurred since 9/11 and learned about how Rana's brother Balbir had been killed. She followed this story on the news, but still hadn't met the Sodhis yet. When the trial of the man who killed Balbir came up, hate crimes were still happening, so she wanted to tell this story, and the way to contemporize the story was to wrap it around the trial.

Rana then mentioned that after 9/11 a lot of hate crimes occurred including to his own family. Anybody, any journalist who can educate the community will make a difference. Education is good for our country and the community.

Audience Questions:

Q: Is there a history of martyrdom in the Sikh religion?

A: Yes, but it is in the peaceful tradition of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. It is not to achieve salvation. It's about giving up yourself for life and justice. Example of the 5th and 9th Gurus who sacrificed their lives to protect others.

Q: How are Rana's children doing in their school? (At one point in the film, Rana and his wife take their children to school and speak to their classmates to educated them about the Sikh religion so there wouldn't be any stereotypes against his children)

A: They have made so many friends since he went to their school to speak with the students.

Q: What became of the clerk who was shot and spit on? (At another point in the film, it documents other examples of hate crimes, this one in particular about a clerk who was shot and spit on and survived)

A: He's a strong person and still working in the same place.

Q: How have you come to terms with your brother's death in San Francisco? (In addition to Rana's brother being murdered in Arizona, he had another brother who was a taxi driver in San Francisco, who was also killed)

A: Haven't heard anything new, but heard about one of his brother's friends was beaten. Believes this was also a hate crime.

Q: What is the general Sikh opinion about the War in Iraq?

A: Whenever there is conflict in the Middle East, there's always an uptick in hate crimes.

Q: Do you regret moving your family to the U.S.?

A: Don't think so. Still feel proud of the community and this country.

Q: What drew the producers to this documentary?

A: It was an opportunity to enlighten and educated. There was a rich sacredness to this journey that was inspirational.


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